Thursday, July 26, 2007

Dispatch from Abroad

Greetings from the land of the bizarro keyboard. It's been a year since I've typed on one of these, and it shows. A tutorial: y and z are switched. The @ symbol is hidden on the 'l' key and only accessible by hitting the alt key simultaneously. Then there's the beautiful ü, ö, ä with their little follow-the-dancing balls breaking up the monotony of the normal asdf jkl;. It's more like asdf jklö. Even these (non)sense combinations are an order of sorts. A discipline which fingers forget and remember again just long enough to forget. A constant deja vu.


And just the same, it's amazing to me how much knowledge is stuck inside of me, leaping to the surface as if it were there all the time (it was). Yesterday we had some friends over and they were talking about the moving sidewalks in the Paris underground. Instead of the conveyor-belt technology used in most airports, they are apparently comprised of many cylinders which propel you the minute you step on them. There are two lanes- slow and fast, and the fast one accelerates you at impressive speed. Our friends said that no matter how prepared you are for it mentally, it still comes as a physical surprise. Something about all those small cylinders causing such momentum seems as though it can't be true.

I wish that for the three years I lived here, I had kept a blog. I can only imagine what things I had said as I return to the thoughts, walking down the streets. It would be interesting to see the persistence of perception or the slight kant as if walking up a slight incline. Today, here. Three years, a decade from now, head cocked a little to the side.


Before leaving home, my husband and I both had a feeling we did not want to leave. We weren't ready to come. There's always so much in motion that it's hard to feel like it's possible (even preferable?) to leave it, stop-motion. Perhaps we crave a more episodic handling of our exposition. This is the point in the plot where we wind things up. Although we live in simultaneousness as a point of being (breathing AND looking AND thinking AND biting nails), our minds trick us into thinking that it is not so. Focus and selection is an amazing coping skill.

Yet when we arrived, our arrival was immediate. Here is our bank. There is where I always bought the plums (much better than the stand right next to it) and money is money, not some computation of this is how much? (If you've looked at the value of the Euro recently, you'll know how dangerous of an automatism this is!)

At the same time, life at home is whole and constant, even without us this period of time. The fruit flies that swarm around half-eaten bananas here are the same that are digesting our compost at home. The process (though unseeable: when will our compost finally yield DIRT, for God's sakes?) is ongoing.


I can tell you where I am now because I do this blog anonymously. Therefore I am not worried that you will go to my house, foil my security system and steal my dirt. I can tell you where I am, but never who I am. That's the riddle that keeps life rolling forward.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Makin' it hard out here for a pimp

So I'm not a joiner. I'll admit that much. Never really toyed with the idea of joining a sorority (they're just for pretty girls, and I'm pretty and smart, or so the rationale goes). Never, never wanted to be friends with everyone I met. Nor do I expect to be liked by everyone. That would require me to actually talk to all people, which I have always viewed as an acute waste of time and energy.

Elitist, perhaps. Protectionist definitely.

Still, I apparently every once and a while feel the need to ride the preverbial mechanical bull of social organizing. I was president of my women's club in Germany (smart women, mind you!) and now I've taken on neighborhood organizing. Apparently, I am a glutton for punishment. Still, it seems to me that especially in the burbs like where I live, it's important to know your neighbors.

It's especially important to know your neighbors if you live down the street from a pimp/drug dealer.

So, I suppose my organizing bug is a fair part survival instinct. Still, it always seemed to me to work better with the carrot than the stick. So I decided to organize a 4th of July picnic for the neighborhood. I delivered flyers in every mailbox (even the pimp's!), I bought foamcore and made signs. I even bought american flags, for God's sakes, and streamers, and patriotic tablecloths. Not something that this mama would ever really do. I'm just not the "garden flag" type.

Anyhow, out of 60 houses, 12 showed up (including us). It was certainly an interesting group. We have lots of diversity for such a small, relatively new neighborhood in what I consider to be a relatively white, American state. We had our older paranoid gossip couple (the woman totally reminds me of Lynette's babysitter on Desperate Housewives), we had our good christian family with four daughters (I think the woman was taken aback when I hinted that we were Jewish. Bizarro).

Yet, I couldn't help but feel let down that there weren't more people there. It felt as though the whole neighborhood was posing like those monkeys "See no Evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." Suffice it to say, no pimps or even neighbors of pimps showed up.


My husband and I have had many discussions on how to get people motivated to care, and look out for each other. We have this (call it idealistic) thought that the more people know each other, the more uncomfortable it will be for the pimps.

I've even had fantasies of surreptitiously delivering welcome packets of flowers and brownies to the pimp's mailbox. If caught, I could simply shrug and say I wanted them to feel welcome in the neighborhood (of course hoping for the exact opposite effect). These people want to operate with a fair amount of anonymity. The less you allow them that, the more likely it is, perhaps, that they will move elsewhere.

That having been said, my husband wants me in no way, shape or form to be leaving baked goods in the pimp's mailbox. Still, I love the fantasy of it.


Do you out there have any ideas of what might work for us? How has your neighborhood worked on building community? Have you dealt with any safety concerns or difficult neighbors? Any good (or even off-the-wall fun) ideas on how to go about fostering community and at the same time making the pimps feel unwelcome?

Write to me. Otherwise, I might be driven to greater lengths of social gregariousness. And we wouldn't want it to come to that now, would we?